Many language learners set out and do achieve a certain level but somehow end up getting stuck at a level before their hopes have been realized. This can also be called plateauing or, if you plateau for LONG time, some language teachers talk about this as fossilizing! Now, who would want to fossilize? 🙂 No one I am sure! There are of course many reasons why this happens. Rather than go into the reasons, this post will look at what you can do if you think you may have hit a plateau and want to ensure that your language learning keeps progressing. How to start moving again? If you really are keen about finding why you got stuck, you can soon sort out the reasons by looking at the solutions. (They are listed below, in no particular order).
Some of these may work for you, some may not. Choose the one that resonates with you in some way and persist with it for a time. Then if need be, try something else from the list.
- You may well need to look at your priorities and place learning a language higher on your list. This may require a bit of work on your part as reprioritizing will need some planning and effort.
- Find something to get passionate about; a book, a film, the culture, the history, even a lover!…etc. Passion will give you the energy, the fire to explore and keep moving.
- Set out to master one thing that you have become aware of that you are not so great at. Make it small and measurable like a sound, a part of some form of the language, and work at it till you can use it spontaneously. Once you manage one, your view about yourself and what you are capable of will irrevocably change, especially if you manage to replicate this with some other issue, and so on.
- Work to improve your listening. Whether it be listening to your friends more carefully or listening to the sounds of the street or the sounds in a language.
- Work at raising your care factor in any one or more of the following:
- Caring about what you say
- Caring about how you say it
- Caring about the impact of what you say has on people
- Caring about what others say
- Caring about how you spend your time
- Stop translating for a while and see if that changes the way you approach learning. If you feel the challenge keep going. If you feel frustrated and angry, don’t persist- for now.
- Find a teacher who can “set you on fire”.
- Get a language coach to help you figure out what you are stuck, keep you focussed and moving.
- Don’t talk your first language for a time (each day?).
- Travel to a country where the language is spoken, in other words try immersion (and stay away from the expatriate community!!).
- Start a club where only the target language is spoken (can be to do with anything, from business to cooking, to walking etc).
- Set yourself a goal to get to a certain level in the language.
Every one of these approaches has its place and its importance for a language learner, however, the one that I believe is of paramount importance in ensuring continuing progress is engagement in your learning. Engagement sits at the heart of successful learning. Every one of us knows what that feels like. All of us have at some point being engaged in something, whether it be playing games, cooking, or reading a good book. There is a certain quality of energy about that and when we find it in our learning, we will be unstoppable!